Tall trees rise from a foreground river bank and extend through a misty valley, joining that to the distant peaks beyond. The pictorial surface is enriched and enlivened by variations in ink tonality and varieties of brushstrokes, seen especially in the tree foliage and texturing of the rocks. The work is almost a pure landscape— that is, mountains, rocks, and water—with only a bridge in the lower left suggesting the intrusion of humans. A similar approach is found in works by Chang Jui-t’u (d. 1645) (figs. 1-2), a contemporary of the present artist.
Wang Kuei, tzu Hsien-yu ( ‘Friend of Transcendents’), was from Ch’ung-yang, located in the Wu-ch’ang district of Hupei province. According to his biography in the T’u-hui Pao-chien Hsu-tsuan of about 1680, ‘he formerly prepared for the examinations. His paintings have the pure remoteness of Ni (Tsan) and Wang (Meng). For a time he was a most honored craftsman.' Birth and death dates for Wang are not given in standard sources, so the present painting could possibly date to 1691, but it seems most likely that he studied for the examinations before the end of the Ming and then earned his living by painting, in which art he was greatly honored.
1. T’u-hui Pao-chien Hsu-tsuan, Hua-shih Ts’ung-shu edition, vol. 2, p. 921.
Fig. 1. Chang Jui-t’u: ‘Mountains in Mist’ 1631, after Oswald Siren: Chinese Painting, New York, 1958, vol. 6, pl. 296A.
Fig. 2. Chang Jui-t’u: ‘Pines by Waterfall’ 1633, after Chung-kuo Mei-shu Ch’uan-chi, Hui-hua Pien, Shanghai, 1988, vol. 8, pl. 109.